Commentary

Are Apple App Users Half Empty Or Half Full? (Depends On Who You Talk To)


A couple of weeks into Apple's enforcement of its new App Tracking Transparency framework, it doesn't appear to be the dire situation some had anticipated. Or maybe it is? It all depends on who you speak with.

A weekly analysis of Apple app developers that have begun implementing the prompts for active users and/or new users installing, suggests it's not as if consumers are abandoning tracking on a wholesale basis.

Based on the most recent week of data (ended May 9), 40% of active users and 31% of new installers have opted into having their data tracked on apps running on Apple's iOS 14.5 version.

While there's some concern for U.S. mobile advertisers -- the numbers fall to 36% and 28%, respectively among U.S. active users and installers -- it's not the falloff some (especially Facebook) had been predicting.

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It's unclear from the data why users would or would not allow tracking after being notified, but if you look at the app category data, it appears to be a function of what the apps actually do for them. While most app categories have close to the overall opt-in rates, the rate for social media app users skews much lower, which I suspect has to do with overall perceptions of individual user privacy as it relates to social media.

While the AppsFlyer tracking seems robust and solid -- it's based on an analysis of more than 1,000 apps that have implemented Apple's ATT and 51 million users who saw their prompts and allowed their data to be tracked -- there is some other data floating around that suggests it could be worse.

In particular, there was an article by Inc. columnist Jason Aten citing data from Verizon Media's Flurry analytics platform indicating that only 6% of users have opted in so far.

That's quite a range, but I don't have access to the Flurry database, so I can't vouch for it.

The big question, however, is how Apple app user behavior changes over time. I'm pretty sure that will have something to do with the nature of the apps they are installing, and whether it inherently makes sense for them to track their users' data, or whether they provide other incentives.

The best example I can give for this is a navigation app: If you don't allow your data to be tracked, there's no way a navigation app can help you figure out where you want to go.

1 comment about "Are Apple App Users Half Empty Or Half Full? (Depends On Who You Talk To)".
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  1. David Kohl from TRUSTX, May 13, 2021 at 12:39 p.m.

    It's early days, and I suspect the trend you highlighted vis-a-vis higher opt-out rates on social apps will continue as more consumers upgrade to iOS 14.5. The lack of trust in these platforms is driving the behavior. Based on a sampling of publishers with whom we regularly speak suggests that the opt-out rates on mainstream content and entertainment apps are not quite as favorable as the AppsFlyer data suggests, but no where near as worrisome as the Flurry data you reference. Too early to come up with a stat ... let's check in again this time next month.

    However, with all due respect, I think that last paragraph is a bit dramatic and only accurate in the very narrowist of senses. I know of no app where tracking prevention will disable the app's core functionality. A navigation app like Google Maps or Waze will absolutely still function as intended whether or not users give Google app-tracking permission. I imagine these apps may be slightly less proficient at "recommending" sponsored stops along the way if the advertiser is combining location data with other factors related to the user. In that very narrow sense, I can see the argument that these ads will be less likely to suggest unplanned sponsored stops customized to the user's taste and habits. Outside of this use case, I'm quite sure that if a user doesn't allow his or her data to be tracked, navigation apps will do just fine in helping users figure out how to get where they want to go.

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